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Shore excursions on your cruise can be your largest expense beside your cruise fare. However, getting off the ship in each port and taking an excursion can really enhance your cruise and give you unforgettable memories.
Excursions such as swimming with dolphins, taking a catamaran snorkeling, visiting a national park in Alaska, horseback riding in the ocean, tours to experience the local culture, or a relaxing day at a beach resort can get expensive quickly.
While a few will stay on the ship in each port, most passengers are like me and enjoy visiting each port. Let’s look at the three ways to book shore excursions so you can choose which one is best for you and your finances, without compromising quality and experience.
The most popular way to book shore excursions on your cruise is directly through the cruise line. The cruise line will offer the most options and they are billed directly to your stateroom. Most of the new ships allow you the ease of booking directly on your TV, it doesn’t get any easier than that.
Pros of booking directly through the cruise line:
- Widest selection of tours.
- Your ship will wait for you if your tour is late getting back, guaranteed.
- A shore excursion desk is located on the ship so you can have any questions answered before or after booking.
Cons of booking directly through the cruise line:
- Prices are marked up so you will pay a higher price.
- Tours can often be extremely full and in large groups.
- Some excursions require a minimum amount of passengers or they will be canceled.
- They are not customizable like the smaller private tours.
The second way of booking excursions is through a private company such as Shore Excursions Group. They offer over 3,000 excursions in over 300 ports around the globe and at much better prices than the cruise lines. The groups are smaller and they pride themselves in offering higher quality excursions that all the major lines.
They also have 24/7 support and guarantee you that will you return to the ship on time. If your tour is late getting back (to date, they never had a customer miss the ship), they will pay for all lodging, meals, and transportation to your next port so you can rejoin the ship, along with $500 cash to each person in the group. Usually you can get the same excursion as the cruise line will offer for as much as 50% off.
Pros of booking with Shore Excursions Group:
- Lower prices than the cruise lines.
- Higher quality excursions than the cruise lines.
- Smaller more personable tours.
- Money back guarantee.
- 24/7 support.
- Guaranteed return to the ship.
Cons of booking with Shore Excursions Group:
- Fewer excursions offered than the cruise lines.
The third and final way to book shore excursions on your cruise is to book one in port after you get off the ship. This is the cheapest way to book excursions and perfect for those that like to make decisions spur of the moment. When you get off the ship, there will be many vendors and tour operators with signs offering everything from jet skis, snorkeling, diving, beach days, swimming with dolphins, island tours etc.
Pros to booking excursions in port:
- Lowest prices on excursions, don’t be afraid to barter on prices.
- Freedom to wait until the last minute to decide.
Cons on booking excursions in port:
- No guarantee getting back to the ship on time. If your tour is late, you are straight out of luck. However, this does not happen often. They do everything in their power to get you back with plenty of time to spare.
- Not all tour operators are licensed by the local government.
- The excursion you wanted to do may not offered by a local.
Which way is best for you? Everyone is different so that all depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a good price and the highest quality excursions, then Shore Excursions Group would probably be best for you. If you like to decide at the last minute and are looking for the best possible deal, then booking your excursions in port would probably suit you best.
However, many love the security and ease of going through the cruise line, even though the prices are highest. Whichever you choose, enjoy your time in port as you experience and learn about the local culture.